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Compliance Gossip: Cake, Sport n All

I sat down in the doctor’s waiting room the other day, laptop on me to make use of any waiting time, but the hand reached for the gossip magazine on the table. After a couple of pages, my heart jumped with joy when I saw that, for a tiny corner of their magazine, they had chosen a compliance topic. (I guess I have learned how many publications don’t want to do that.)

The underlying question of rules/compliance in this case is: What performance-enhancing methods can be used to compete, legally, in a bicycle race. But the finer details reported through Oprah and other channels paint a picture that doesn’t take me back to law school, when we discussed painstakingly whether the shoplifter had the necessary ‘state of mind’ when he passed the tills with stuff in his pockets. Instead, it reminds me more of lessons on how to get through life through networking: How big was the private jet he travelled on? Who (advisers, journalists, etc) could schlepp along? Who was part of repeatedly putting his side of the story into the public domain? What happened to people who tried to suggest a different story? Could they still be part of the sport at the same high level, if they did so?

That ‘power game’ we know of, but don’t seem to take into account so much when a new set of regulations is proposed. The ‘rules’ just tell you that certain evidence of wrongdoing needs to be put forward, but remain silent on the power game kicking in that might move relevant evidence to a drawer instead of moving it at the center of a discussion whether someone’s actions need to be stopped.

So that’s what she did, according to the gossip magazine, the ex-girlfriend of the cyclist, tell the authorities about his blood transfusions. And she gets a big slap on the wrist for doing so. If the difficulty of breaking the wall of the power game had been on the mind of the journalist writing this piece, they might have at least phrased it as a question: “Should she have gone to the authorities?” But putting her at the bottom of the page was the only thing that fitted into their concept. If done with any hint of irony, I’d need to be shown where that was.

We don’t really get to observe too often what it means to deal with an ongoing onslaught of a power game, – ‘cos it’s usually hidden. TV contestants on the receiving end of an ‘online power game community’, that, we can observe. Here, a contestant of The Great British Bake Off, claims: “I have shied away from the more decorative side of baking for fear of being dismissed as silly. I’ve served every bake with a side of self-deprecation as anything more than total meekness may be mistaken for the sort of confidence that other bakers have been lambasted for.”

I don’t know whether this is a comment on what she did on the show, as I assume all was filmed by the time the comments started. But if it is a case that she didn’t do something she wanted to do, for fear of that power game, when the views on how much colour on a cake should be far less controversial than whether you support someone on what might be an illegal sporting venture, that gives us an indication how hard it is for a tiny observation ‘what he did seemed to be against the rules’ to prevail.


Marianne Klausberger is an English lawyer specialising in Compliance topics within German-speaking regions. During her career in private practice in London she focused on dispute resolution and company investigations in, as memories of snow storm, broken air con and varying passport offices tell her, drastically different locations, and gathered experience presenting evidence to the authorities in Washington. After moving in-house, she spent almost three years leading the development of Compliance methodologies in a global chemicals and pharmaceuticals company. She continues to work with companies on such topics on a freelance basis. Approaches to designing the company’s Compliance ‘foundation’ differ widely, yet the hurdles encountered in the implementation show similar patterns. Looking at such obstacles soon becomes the focus of a project. The know-how on FCPA, UK Bribery Act, etc might be there, but it needs to be carried into the organisation; or, wants to be grasped in German, when authorities in the UK or the US may seem far away. A realistic approach remains important to her, – as her t-shirt says: “[I am] easily influenced”, and – probably – so are most of us.

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